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The Twilight Samurai
The Twilight Samurai
Actors: Hiroyuki Sanada, Rie Miyazawa, Nenji Kobayashi, Ren Ôsugi, Mitsuru Fukikoshi
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
UR     2004     2hr 9min

{NOMINATED FOR 2004 ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM} — {12 Wins in the Japanese Film Academy Awards, including Best Director, Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress.} — Seibei Iguchi (Hiroyuki S...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Hiroyuki Sanada, Rie Miyazawa, Nenji Kobayashi, Ren Ôsugi, Mitsuru Fukikoshi
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Love & Romance
Studio: First Run Features
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 12/28/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 2hr 9min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 15
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Japanese
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Romance, adventure, honor and some very hard choices.
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 10/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This Japanese film, directed by Yoji Yamada, won many awards in Japan. I can certainly understand why. It breaks the mold of films usually associated with Samurai warriors, and instead shows us the human side of a man who lived for his honor and who also wanted to just simply live.

The time period is 19th Century Japan. The strength of the Samurais is fading. And our hero, played by Seibei Iguchi, is a recent widower who is trying to support his two young daughters and aging mother. Yes, he's a Samurai, but of a minor caste. This means he works a day job, the equivalent of bookkeeper, along with a group of other men. He's a sad man, ignoring his personal hygiene, which embarrasses his boss. And he always goes straight home after work, never accepting the invitations of his co-workers to go out for a drink.

His relatives want him to marry again but he rejects the marriage broker who comes to visit. And then a lovely woman does come into his life. She's a childhood friend who has married badly. Because she was so mistreated, she has come home to live with her family. She's beautiful and kind and gentle, ad the sad Samurai's children love her. Later, he shows his valor with some swordplay with her abusive husband.

But as the story continues, and a romance blossoms, the man feels unworthy, even though it is clear that he and this woman would make a good match. And then, suddenly, the head of his Samurai clan calls upon him to commit a murder for the honor of the clan. Reluctantly, very reluctantly, he accepts, understanding that it is likely he will die.

I learned a lot about Samurai life and the details of living in a harsh environment every day. I felt I was right there, in a culture that is indeed different from mine. And, as I absorbed the atmosphere, I also felt the plight of a very troubled human being who had to make a hard choice about what he personally felt was right as compared to what his culture demanded of him.

This is a really fine film. The acting is extraordinary. The directing is flawless. There is romance, action and adventure. There's a serious glimpse in the world of the Samurai. And, most of all, there is a human story that tugged at my heartstrings. Highly recommended.

This Samurai's Heroism Isn't Wrought with a Sword.
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 01/01/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"In "The Twilight Samurai", director Yoji Yamada conceived a more realistic interpretation of life in 19th century Japan than is often seen in "samurai films". The result in a genuine period film that spends time on the daily struggles and family life of its protagonist, Seibei Iguchi, without adrenaline-pumping swordplay. Yamada based the film's screenplay on 3 stories by novelist Shuuhei Fujisawa. The story is told partly from the point of view of Seibei Iguchi's daughter, Ito, who is 5 years old in the film, but provides voiceover narration as a grown woman.

Iguchi (Hiroyuki Sanada) is a low-ranking samurai of the Unasaka Clan, living under the Shogunate of mid-19th century Japan, a few years before the Meiji Restoration. Already the days of the samurai seem numbered, which casts a certain fatalism over the events of the film. Iguchi's wife has recently died after a long and taxing illness, leaving him to care for his two young daughters and senile mother with insufficient income. Iguchi actually enjoys the life of a farmer and watching his daughters grow, but his poverty leaves him without even proper clothing to fulfill his professional responsibilities. His spirits are lifted when he learns that Tomoe (Rie Miyazawa), a woman he has adored since childhood, has received a divorce from her abusive husband. But when his clan's leader dies, the ensuing struggle for power may prove fatal for many samurai.

"The Twilight Samurai"'s success depends upon the performance of Hiroyuki Sanada, who makes Iguchi's humility, heartbreak, and eccentricities convincing. Mutsuo Naganuma's delicate, subtly hued cinematography draws our attention to character development and small gestures. This is a period drama, not a martial arts film. There are only one and a half sword fights, which director Yoji Yamada uses to impress upon the audience that samurai didn't conquer one another with quick fatal cuts, as we so often see in movies, but normally delivered and received many cuts and subsequently bled to death. "The Twilight Samurai" is slow and probably a bit too long at 2 hours and 9 minutes. But it is a lovely film of one man's acceptance of the difficulties his life has brought him. Japanese with English subtitles.

The DVD: Bonus features include interviews with director Yoji Yamada and actor Hiroyuki Sanada and 3 theatrical trailers, one of which is for "The Twilight Samurai". The interview with Yoji Yamada (10 minutes) is dubbed in English. The director explains why he wanted to make a realistic period film, why it was well-received by Japanese audiences, and casting actors Sanada and Min Tanaka, who fight in the movie. Hiroyuki Sanada speaks English in his interview (17 minutes). He talks about the character of Seibei Iguchi, his acting career, and his work on the film "The Last Samurai", in which he had a supporting role. The English subtitles for the movie cannot be turned off."
Heart, Soul and Duty.
D. Yamasaki | Torrance, CA USA | 04/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Growing up with a first generation Japanese father and a second generation Japanese-American mother, and being very American the Japanese culture is very close and dear to me. Ever since I can remember, films like Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Yojimbo, Kwaidan, Ugetsu Monogatari, Sword of Doom and Seppuku [Harakiri] have shaped my view of Japanese cinema. I've also watched more Japanese TV historical drama series than I can remember in the last 35 plus years.

A few weeks ago, I happened upon Tasogare Seibei [Twilight Samurai] very much on accident and can't stop thinking about it. It's affected me that much. And more than anything it has opened my eyes to my ignorance regarding modern Japanese cinema. Sure I've enjoyed movies like Shall We Dance and Ringu, but only because they both had releases in the US. Tasogare Seibei has made me realize that modern samurai era films can be very very good, and don't necessarily need names like Kurosawa, Inagaki, Kobayashi or Okamoto attached to them to be good.

This film reminds me very much of Seppuku in that the central character is a devoted and loving father that makes great sacrifices for his family. Unlike the emotional and explosive battle climax that takes place in Seppuku the duel here is taken on reluctantly by Seibei with a heavy heart, yet equally heroically. This reluctance to violence by Seibei is similar to that of William Munny in Unforgiven. But while both are family men and farmers, they have very different character at their core.

Violence and the understanding of it is not what makes this such a great movie. Devotion to his two daughters and aging mother, undying love for a childhood sweetheart, the daily struggle of supporting loved ones on a measly clerk's salary while balancing massive debt is something most 21st century Americans can relate to. What makes it so easy to like, admire and sympathize with Iguchi Seibei is his humble and self-sacrificing approach to life. Compounded by "giri" [duty and obligation] to his clan this creates almost unbearable responsibility and leads to a heart-wrenching decision.

Tasogare Seibei is based on several short stories by Fujisawa Shuhei, and until recently I had no idea my father was such a fan of his. Fujisawa's stories focus on the trials of everyday low-ranking samurai living in the strict feudal world of the samurai. It's no surprise the film's director Yamada Yoji known for his long running Tora-san series is also a fan of Fujisawa's.

Growing up I often wondered if non-Japanese could appreciate or see Japanese cinema the way I do. When I read reviews on for Japanese movies, I have no doubt they can, and I'm frequently humbled that their insights are often more Japanese than mine. But that may also prove that cinema has no cultural or language barrier, so that a person in Moscow can see Gone With The Wind as the classic struggle of Russian women, or Twin Peaks can become a cultural phenomena in Japan. And part of what might make foreign films so special is that they present familiar situations in an inherently culturally unique way.

Twilight Samurai does that, and will hopefully help people realize that no matter the place or the time, we are all the same."
An astoundingly complex character study
wannabemoviecritic | California | 10/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a beautiful film from Japan that was nominated last year for Best Foreign Language Film. It is the story of a poor samurai who takes care of two adorable little girls and a senile mother while facing troubles at his job and the turmoil of his time. The film's emotional force lies in both the nuanced, delicate direction and Hiroyuki Sanada's amazing performance that would undoubtedly be nominated for, or even win the Oscar if the Acadamy members and voting actors were to see the film. It is that good. Apart from Kate Winslet, there has not been a better performance this year (in fact, the two are about tied in that respect). Sanada perfectly and precisely crystallizes every bit of complexity his character has to offer into a sympathetic man we care about and feel for throughout the entirety of the film, which is crucial to its success. There was also a notable performance from Min Tanaka as a dangerous, but deeply sad samurai cornered within a decrepit home. Tanaka managed to key in on the underlying depression and insanity of his dark character. You feel for him, and his presence adds an important sense of gravitas to the conversation both men have before the film's controlled, nerve-wracking climax. This is not your usual samurai film, and proves to be something revelatory, memorable, and, above all, satisfying."